Malford Milligan has gone and done it. He’s made me homesick for Texas. His new album, Life Will Humble You on Royal Family Records is the perfect blend of gritty country soul, blues infused R&B, and sincere, autobiographical lyrics topped off by heartfelt performance.
I grew up in Houston, and between there and road trips over to Austin, I’ve been fortunate to see so many great artists in my home state. During the mid to late 90’s, perhaps no band was as infectious for me as Storyville. Comprised of Double Trouble; Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon, guitarists, David Grissom and David Holt, the band was fronted by the regal and imposing presence of one Malford Milligan. There was just something about that band that resonated and connected with me like few other at the time. When the band members went their separate ways after only two albums, I was disappointed to say the least. But to this day, I have kept up with each member’s new ventures. Milligan has continued to represent the blues and Austin as a statesman over the years. He’s collaborated with and performed with a virtual who’s who of musicians. Eric Johnson, Joe Ely, Greg Koch, Bonnie Raitt, Kristofferson, Tyrone Vaughan, and more. Malford Milligan’s voice was a big part of the magic of Storyville for me, so when presented with an opportunity to review his newest effort, I jumped on it.
I’m really happy that I was able too.
With “Life Will Humble You,” Milligan and his new ensemble, the Southern Aces, have released a fine example of modern Texas styled blues and R&B that hits me in all the feels. Milligan has been through some disappointments over the past few years. He auditioned unsuccessfully on the “Voice.” He has regrets. But, he’s also achieved numerous highs. He got married and was named Austin’s Best Vocalist for the 8th time. “Life Will Humble You” manages to capture all of these life occurrences, these highs and lows and some how manages to remind you that things are all going to be okay. Songs such as “Man I Used To Be” “Desperate Decisions” and the obvious title track capture the loss and disappointment, while the songs “I Don’t Mind at All’ and “All This Love” reinvigorates the positives. Through it all, Milligan always comes back to a sense of hope, which is represented in songs such as “I Won’t Surrender” and “When Love Brings You to Tears”.
Milligan is at his absolute best on the song “I’ll Take Care of it All”, which manages to address each emotion perfectly. It was likely my favorite track, and one that is bound to shine in a live setting.
Milligan is joined by previous collaborator, Jack Hustinx who proves invaluable by wearing multiple hats. Hustinx is credited for production, arrangement, mixing, songwriting and guitar. In addition to Hustinx, the Southern Aces are rounded out by the stellar contributions of lead-guitarist Eric van Dijsseldon, Harry Bodine on guitar, John Magnie on accordian and organ, Roelof Klijn on bass, Roel Spanjers on piano, organ and backing vocals, Nicky Hustinx and Steve Amedee on drums as well as a few others. These musicians are key to Milligan’s ability to convey the range of emotions he’s able to here. The sound they’re able to capture on these recordings is reminiscent of the great studio bands that backed so many of the blues legends over the years. The band really sets the tone and allows Milligan to shine.
Life Will Humble You was truly everything I hoped and wanted it to be. Milligan sounds strong and reinvigorated here. Regardless of where the journeys take you, Milligan wants us to keep the faith and never give up hope. With that important message, Malford Milligan and the Southern Aces have given us an album worthy of album of the year consideration.
For more information on Malford Milligan as well as to order “Life Will Humble You”, visit his website here: http://www.malfordmilliganmusic.com/